Picture yourself on the deck of your own private riverboat, taking in the serenity of the French countryside as you sip from a Grand Cru vintage. Then imagine sharing this incredible journey with – and only with – the friends or family that make travel special.

Barge cruising is perhaps one of the most intimate and luxurious ways to experience a country: to float along its rivers and canals with their behind-the-scenes views, and to do it aboard a luxury hotel barge that accepts anywhere from four to 12 guests. It’s perfect for a private charter. The barges are spacious, inviting and the level of service and culinary skill of the ship’s chef and crew will surprise you.

These shallow bottomed barges – outfitted with generous room sizes (some even boast four-poster beds) - will moor just about anywhere. And with such a small group on board, voyages can be tailor-made to suit you all. You’ll be immersed in the countryside: Perhaps a stop to go horse riding along the many trails of Languedoc? Or dining with vintners in Burgundy after a tour of their exclusive cellars? Maybe sampling vintages from a family-run Champagne vineyard is on your bucket list?

These historic barges once plied European waterways delivering cargo; by the 19th century, the canal network of Europe had links to the English Channel, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea. When water transport declined, some ships were scrapped, but the best were kept and restored or retrofitted into five-star floating hotels.

Drifting peacefully through the Loire Valley, or Provence, or Burgundy, or along the Canal du Midi, a UNESCO heritage site, may be what your group needs to reconnect and celebrate the better things in life.

Intimate cruising with the people you love to travel with, what’s not to love?

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